Case study

Summer intern — Emma Wells

Emma is studying for a degree in philosophy, politics and economics at the University of Oxford. Discover how she became a research and campaigns intern at Citizens Advice

At what point in your degree did you do your internship?

The summer after second year.

What were you looking for in an internship?

I wanted to gain some experience, specifically in conducting research and using analysis techniques, and to work on projects that would have a real impact in the local community.

What attracted you to Citizens Advice?

I had heard of the charity before, and I loved their whole ethos of empowering local people through delivering impartial advice and increasing awareness.

Furthermore, the dual nature of this particular internship scheme was hugely attractive and relevant to my future career aspirations.

How did the internship work?

I was involved in so many things during my four weeks with Citizens Advice. I worked on two projects with another intern. The first was research into our clients' experiences of health services in Oxford, and the second was coordinating a Scams Awareness campaign.

For the Scams Awareness project, we were given full control of the campaign. We used a handover document from the previous year's interns as a starting point and produced a strategy for how to further the organisation's reach. We put leaflets and posters in GP surgeries, libraries and banks, ran campaign stalls in shopping areas, gave a presentation to an over-60s lunch club, managed the social media schedule, wrote a press release and provided schools and care organisations with presentations we had designed.

What was a typical day like?

My responsibilities varied widely. I’d generally start the day by checking recent social media posts and planning new tactics to increase interaction with these posts.

I might then move on to sending emails to local MPs and councillors explaining ongoing campaigns, calling clients to invite them to a research interview or sending text reminders to clients already scheduled for interview. In the afternoons I'd check survey data or reply to emails.

One day I was interviewed on BBC Radio Oxford as part of our Scams Awareness campaign, and as part of this same project I also manned a stall at a local shopping centre. I spoke to shoppers and handed out leaflets.

How did you find the transition from study to work?

Initially I found it quite daunting to have so much independence in a charity that was often dealing with very sensitive issues. However, I learned to trust my own intuition and experience when it came to making judgement calls, and was very well supported by my supervisors.

What did you enjoy about your internship?

One of the best things about the internship was the opportunity I received to talk to different people. It was also lovely to have conversations with clients in the waiting room while I was helping them to fill out surveys.

What was the most challenging part?

The independence was simultaneously the most fun and the most challenging part.

How did the experience benefit your career?

I'm still not entirely sure what I want to do in the future, but I think I might like to do something in research for NGOs.

I learned so much about research interviews from my supervisor and also from the hands-on experience I had during the internship. Surprisingly, I also found that the administration aspect of the internship has been a big asset in recent interviews.

What advice would you give others who are planning an internship?

Don't give up. I must have received ten rejections before I finally got invited to an interview. Book an appointment with a careers adviser and bring along your CV and an example cover letter. If I hadn't spoken with an adviser I would have lost my confidence and given up hope of finding an internship.

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